Riders who haven’t yet bailed to take an Uber wait for a train to eventually come during single-tracking at Metro Center. Image by Stephen Repetski.
Several members of Metro's Board of Directors appear to have given up on trying to return riders to the rail system and are content with relegating it to a 9-to-5 commuter rail system. This goes against everything the board — and local elected officials — should be trying to do.
Metrorail and Metrobus’ services eliminate hundreds of thousands of car trips on the area’s highways and roads, and allow dense (read: more sustainable) communities to thrive. Good transit enables local jurisdictions to waste less land on roads, and to build businesses and badly-needed homes instead. We need a useful Metro system if we're serious about meeting our sustainability and road safety goals — and we need leaders who will actually work to make it better.
Money that taxpayers put forward last year for Metro is being threatened by leaders who would limit the system’s effectiveness for their own interests. We’re paying for a better product and planning on a better product — it’s now Metro’s responsibility to deliver a better product.
Riders won’t stick around to see the ship sink. It’s no wonder that Metro has lost riders over the past several years. Agency leaders were pressured to run longer hours of service, officials failed to maintain the system, and no politicians were there to ask questions and double-check the agency’s homework. Now with unrelenting trackwork to try and get the system “back 2 good,” riders are finding ways to move around in quicker, more reliable ways, while Metro’s leaders are fumbling about.
The region planned around Metro. Leaders can’t backtrack on that now. Metro is vital to our region, and it would be disastrous to limit its availability to just morning and evening rush hours. The region spent billions to build an urban subway system through DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and billions more to expand and maintain it. Telling riders “you’re better off calling a cab” because the trains don’t run frequently enough in the evenings is frankly ridiculous. Many people around the region work outside of 9-5 hours — often, these are the workers who most need access to reliable transit.
The litany of issues facing the transit agency are real: perception, finances, increasing costs, political pressure, and fewer riders, just to name some of them. Those appointed to the Metro board can’t be allowed to sit around and let the system fail.
Metro's leadership needs to step up or step down.